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I sometimes wonder if Hollywood should rename itself Sequel-land, as it sometimes seems as though audiences are lining up at the multiplex to see something with a Roman numeral after the title more times than they are seeing something completely new. NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN ($40) foregoes the Roman numeral, but is a second installment nonetheless. Personally, I found NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN to be a fun diversion, filled with impressive effects and amusing performances, in addition to being a film that can be enjoyed by the entire family.

The premise of NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN finds that former American Museum of Natural History night guard Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) is now the head of Daley Devices, a company that makes popular consumer products, which Larry invented as a result of his adventures in the first film. When Larry pays a visit to his old friends the Museum (his old friends being the exhibits that are brought to life nightly by The Golden Tablet Of Ahkmenrah), he is distraught by a troubling turn of events. It seems the museum has implemented a number of cost cutting measures, which results in the majority of the exhibits being replaced by interactive holograms, while the exhibits themselves are being sent into storage at The Federal Archives at The Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC… without The Golden Tablet Of Ahkmenrah.

However, the next night Larry gets a desperate call from miniature cowboy Jedediah (Owen Wilson) announcing that The Tablet found its way to The Smithsonian and the evil Pharaoh Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria) is trying to get his hands on it. Of course, Larry hightails it to Washington, slips on a security guard’s uniform and sneaks into The Federal Archives, where he learns that Kahmunrah intends to use The Tablet to open a portal to The Underworld and raise a supernatural army to take over the world. What follows is a desperate chase through The Smithsonian, as Larry, Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams), General George Armstrong Custer (Bill Hader) and a number of old friends try to keep The Tablet out of the hands of Kahmunrah, as well as his evil generals- Ivan The Terrible (Christopher Guest), Napoleon Bonaparte (Alain Chabat) and Al Capone (Jon Bernthal). The cast of NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN also features Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Patrick Gallagher, Jake Cherry, Rami Malek, Mizuo Peck, Jay Baruchel, Clint Howard and Robin Williams. While the entire cast is fun, there are two actors really stand out in NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN- Amy Adams is a perky joy as Amelia Earhart, while Hank Azaria is an absolute hoot as resident villain Kahmunrah, who delivers his lines with a fey Boris Karloff like inflection that was obviously borrowed from THE MUMMY.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. This is a wonderful looking 1080p presentation, which maintains a nicely film-like quality, despite an overwhelming number of digital elements. Everything appears crisp and very nicely defined. Additionally, the picture is quite dimensional, in addition to offering a wonderful level of fine image detail and texturing. Colors are very strongly rendered and quite vibrant. In addition, the flesh tones are highly appealing. Blacks are deep, whites are crisp and clean, plus there is smooth contrast and a fairly healthy dose of shadow detail. Also of note, the black and white sequence look very impressive. The elements from which NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN has been mastered demonstrate virtually no imperfections. Despite the fact, so much of the film was finished in the digital domain; a fine veneer of grain is always present, which keeps everything organic and film-like.

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This is a dependable and invigorating mix that complements the on-screen action quite well. Still, it is not a mix that rivals the best action movies, despite a heavy dose of comic action. The talky comedy aspects are presented in the expected manner- in other words front-loaded. However, when the film goes into the action mode, the mix still seems a little light when it comes to directing sounds into the rear channels. Key moments do make good use of the surrounds, but the overall frantic quality of many sequences seems to be missing a good kick in the pants to put it over the top. The lossless encode provides for outstanding fidelity and a potent bottom end to the soundtrack. Voices have a warm, natural quality, plus the film’s dialogue is totally understandable. French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin and Portuguese.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements. Starting things off are two running Audio Commentaries included on the Blu-ray Disc; the first is with director Shawn Levy, while the second features writers Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon. Featurettes and other programs include the following: Curators Of Comedy: Behind The Scenes (twenty eight minutes), Phinding Pharoah (five minutes), Directing 101: A Day In The Life (nineteen minutes), Museum Magic (six minutes), Secret Doors & Scientists: Behind-the-Scenes Of The American Museum Of Natural History (sixteen minutes), Cherub Boot Camp With The Jonas Brothers (four minutes), Historical Confessions: Famous Last Words (six minutes), Cavemen Conversations: Survival of the Wittiest (four minutes), Show Me The Monkey Featurettes (eighteen minutes) and Gangster Levy (two minutes). An interactive Museum Scavenger Hunt mode/game is also provided for those who want to play and watch at the same time. Deleted Scenes & Alternate Ending, plus a Gag Reel, two installments of Fox Movie Channel Presents and Bonus Trailers close out the standard supplements. Disc two offers a DVD copy of the movie for those who are on the fence about making the upgrade to Blu-ray, while disc three provides a Digital Copy of the film.

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN is a fun movie sequel and family friendly fare to boot. The Blu-ray looks terrific and sounds quite nice. If you are a fan, then the Blu-ray is definitely the way to go.



Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (Three-Disc Edition + Digital Copy + DVD) [Blu-ray] (2009)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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